For URI’s GreenSkills Program, the winter months are a time for reflection, tree pruning, and making plans for the upcoming spring planting season. The focus of our planning efforts is to muster new tree adopters, as each of the 200+ trees we will plant this spring season is personally requested by a resident or business in New Haven. The community of New Haven tree adopters is now over 2,600 strong, and together they have received and cared for more than 6,000 trees since the program began just over a decade ago.
There are many paths a person may take to becoming a tree adopter! Some learn at a community management team meeting about the opportunity to receive a tree. Others read the tags on newly planted trees in their neighborhood, and still others receive “A Tree For Every Child” postcards from Yale- New Haven Hospital after welcoming their newborns into the world.
One of the most common ways that people become tree adopters themselves is after hearing about the GreenSkills program from a friend or neighbor—in fact, last year 14% of tree recipients learned about the program only through word of mouth. Many prior tree recipients have become our program’s biggest advocates.
This winter, the team at URI has been thinking of ways to mobilize the network of 2,600 individual tree recipients to help promote New Haven’s tree planting program. If just 5% of our tree recipients, say, 130, recruited five new tree requesters every season, we would easily reach our planting target of 500+ trees every year. This network of tree adopters could be a powerful tool to spread the word about the program via credible, trusted sources—the neighborhood residents and the tree recipients themselves. We envision that some tree adopters could step into a new role, an ambassador of sorts, as champions of URI’s street tree planting program who can build awareness of what we do, speak positively about their experience of receiving a URI-planted tree, and encourage friends and neighbors to take part in positive change for their city and neighborhood.
About some of our tree ambassadors
It turns out we don’t have to look far when imagining what this tree ambassador role would look like, as there have been many residents over the years who have worn this hat, but without an official title.
Lynn Street, president of the Ronan-Edgehill Neighborhood Association, is an avid gardener and lover of trees. Delighted by a recent street tree planting at a neighbor’s property around the corner from her, Lynn reached out to URI asking if we might assess the potential of plant- ing in front of multiple homes on Huntington Street. Lynn had already organized “a gaggle of neighbors who [were] willing to coordinate planting [their] block,” and offered to act as the “tree yenta,” providing extra coordination with URI and watering support should the neigh- bors need it. Lynn successfully marshalled adopters for nine new trees this past season. When she shared the details of our initial site visit to her neighbors, she signed her email, “in search of shade.”
Steve Winter is the Alder for Ward 21, a district that stretches across Newhallville, parts of Dixwell and Prospect Hill, and into East Rock. Since taking office two years ago, Steve has made it part of his mission to support his constituents in getting curb-strip stumps removed and new trees planted. Steve thinks that “tree stumps are a big hook,” because when he’s able to tell a resident they can not only have a large stump removed from in front of their home, but also have a new beautiful tree planted in its place, he’s able to offer a tremendous service to the residents of his ward. Steve is currently one of our most active tree ambassadors. His advocacy was responsible for 11 of the new trees